This post was created because of some interactions with potential clients and viewing posts for work by employers seeking marketing assistance. It is my goal to assist employers seeking either consultants or freelancers to feel a little more prepared for working with them via this post.
Preparation is important
You must really understand why and what you are hiring a consultant to perform. If you only need someone to post on social media i.e. put pictures on Pinterest, which is a very narrow skill set and require only a few hours a week. Conversely, if you need someone to manage the development and execution of a marketing plan, then that is very different. A person needs to work with you mid-long term effort to perform such a job. Will this be a long term or short term engagement? Social media marketing and digital strategy are ongoing long term initiatives that require a great deal of work as well as regular maintenance.
A Business Plan
As wacky as this may sound, you need a business plan to effectively market either a product or a service. You should live and breathe your product, its competitors, and primary customer target. The business plan should outline the dreaded financials, which are needed. I say dreaded because numbers along with ghosts, taxes, and bad hair days are equally feared by most. The financials determine how to price your product, when you cover fixed costs, determine the break-even point, and determine your marketing budget. Simply put marketing costs money. The ads that you see online in Facebook and Twitter cost, therefore financial resources need to be allocated to it.
Having a defined product or service developed, prototyped, tested, and if possible viewed by focus group is critical. Please don’t contact a marketing consultant digital or otherwise, if you have not resolved what the product is, how it works, and tested it thoroughly. Many businesses are so hyper focused on their website and social media presence yet there is no product/service fully developed to market. Customers don’t want to buy a service/product that has been poorly produced. This means you will be creating a bad reputation for yourself. First impressions matter with customers. Marketing consultant needs a finalized product or service to be effective.
Manage Your Ego
Once you have done all of the above, then you are ready to connect with a consultant. Manage your ego is a critical part of being successful when working with a consultant/freelancer. You have to work with them and let then consultant you on best practices and approaches. In the beginning, the consultant should outline their scope of work, deadlines, and milestones that you both agree upon. You should have a weekly call at a minimum to understand work being performed. Also managing online/offline marketing is a lot of work. Large companies like US Air, Ford, etc. have a whole dept dedicated to social media. Similarly, a company would have separate dedicated departments to each of the following: content management, digital marketing, mobile marketing, search marketing, and digital analytics. Therefore, it is easier to let the marketing professional take the lead, since marketing is quite complicated. I would never say that business owner doesn’t need to know marketing, but your knowledge is extremely limited compared to that list of departments full of experts. Conversely, the marketer should respect and appreciate your expertise.
This may be my most important piece of advice. Have realistic expectations and only believe consultants that provide as such. On the employer side, it is not a realistic to expect a marketing consultant to deliver 5,000 twitter followers in one week. Similarly, a college student can be a great on campus representative selling your product, blogging in a supervised way, or creating beautiful marketing materials; however there are limits to what a college student with limited experience can assist with. However, there are extremely talented college students, but be cautious. The consultant should be able to provide you a previous work sample, have marketing field experience, outline of their proposed work products, and tentative dates for deliverables.
Embrace the Process
Marketing is similar to most things in life, it is a process. The creation of marketing plan will not create immediate customers for you. Marketing is part science and part art. Science part is trial and error in a systematic way to create results with the goal of impacting your business’ bottom line. There are definitely some best practices related to marketing. The consultant should outline a plan, meet with you weekly, and provide weekly reports related to their efforts. The results will not always be upward or bring immediate revenue to your business; however there should be an explanation along with next steps, if a problem occurs.
It is a Relationship
People market to people. People hire other people. Try to pick someone with good credentials, previous success, and most importantly it should be someone that you can have a good working relationship with. This is especially important because marketing is a process. You need to feel confident and comfortable in that person’s ability to work with you through the marketing process. It is my hope that the points listed above are helpful for those seeking any type of marketing consultant.
What advice do you think employers need when hiring a consultant?
Have a Happy Tuesday!